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Proposed commissions could seek coins

Two bills passed the House of Representatives Sept. 24 that could have eventual numismatic consequences.
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Two bills passed the House of Representatives Sept. 24 that could have eventual numismatic consequences.

H.R. 1520, the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain Quadricentennial Commemoration Act of 2007, to establish the Champlain Quadricentennial Commemoration Commission and the Hudson-Fulton 400th Commemoration Commission, was moved on the consent calendar, as was H.R. 1389, which would create a Star-Spangled Banner and War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission.

They next go to the Senate for consideration where, under a parallel track, S. 1148, an identical Hudson-Fulton-Champlain bill, was introduced back in April by Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, D-N.Y.

A Senate bill to establish the Star-Spangled Banner and War of 1812 Bicentennial Commission, S. 1079, was put forth by Sen. Benjamin Cardin, D-Md.

Both Senate measures were placed on the Senate Legislative Calendar under General Orders on Sept. 17, meaning the majority leader can call for a vote at any time.

Hearings on S. 1148 were held July 12 before the Subcommittee on National Parks of the Senate Energy Committee, with a numismatically familiar theme.

The legislation?s purpose is ?to ensure a suitable national observance of the anniversaries of Henry Hudson, Robert Fulton, and Samuel de Champlain in 2009 through cooperation with, and assistance to, the programs and activities of the States of New York and Vermont, and the commemorative commissions formed by those States? with the province of Quebec in Canada.

The bill is before the Energy Committee (national parks subcommittee) because its primary purpose is ?to assist in ensuring that Hudson-Fulton-Champlain 2009 observances provide an excellent visitor experience and beneficial interaction between visitors and the natural and cultural resources of the sites located in the states.?

Quebec has appropriated $1 million. Thoughtfully, Clinton has provided a funding mechanism besides congressional appropriations: commemorative coinage.

One of the specific enumerated powers of the commission, if established, would be ?(5) to support and facilitate marketing efforts for (A) a commemorative coin; (B) a commemorative stamp; and (C) related activities for the Hudson-Fulton-Champlain 2009 observances.?

A century ago, there were medallic tributes by, among others, the American Numismatic Society, and of course there is a 1935 U.S. commemorative to mark the 150th anniversary of the founding of Hudson, N.Y. (featuring Hudson?s ship the Half Moon on the obverse).

Although the bill is under the guise of educational activities, the real aim is to spur economic development in New York?s Upstate region.

For any commemorative coin component to move forward, a separate law approved by both houses of Congress and the President is required. There are presently no bills toward that end.

The War of 1812 bicentennial commission functions virtually identically with Hudson-Champlain, but in anticipation of their recommendation, there is already a coin bill in the hopper.

Rep. C.A. ?Dutch? Ruppersberger, D-Md., introduced H.R. 2894, which was introduced June 28 as the ?Star-Spangled Banner and War of 1812 Bicentennial Commemorative Coin Act.?

The bill was referred to the House Financial Services committee. It calls for 350,000 silver dollars to be struck bearing a ?design ... [that is] emblematic of the War of 1812 and particularly the Battle for Fort McHenry that formed the basis for the ?Star-Spangled Banner.??

 Surcharge proceeds would go to the 1812 War bicentennial commission, per the bill.

It is likely that the two commissions will be approved by Congress and President Bush. Any commemorative packages proposed would require a new round of legislative approvals to take place in the future.